Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Daily Show had better journalism

I was watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" last night, and he spent 10 minutes showcasing Douglas Feith's book "War and Decision." Of course Feith spent about all of that 10 minutes trying to defend the indefensible, the fact that to the public, the GW administration did factually paint a far rosier picture about Iraq even if "behind the scenes" they presumably had a far different view of the situation in Iraq. And Jon Stewart managed to ask the sort of tough questions that other talk show commentators did not. He pointed out the public videotapes of Donald Rumsfeld, whining about news channels such as CNN depicting over and over again a single man carrying out a vase. I remember very well what CNN had dutifully put on the air through either satellite TV or cable. Not only was looting depicted in Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion, but also Rumsfeld's dismissive reaction to it. Just as Veep Dick Cheney would come on TV and express that the "insurgency was in its last throes." Which incidentally, some 5 years after the invasion, it isn't.

What I also know is this, from the book "Cobra II," Donald Rumsfeld wanted any actual occupation to end in the shortest possible time. And here it would seem that Douglas Feith may have got it right, J. Paul Bremer, now that he effectively controlled Iraq as head of Occupational Authority wasn't about to go forward with what GW presumably wanted when it came to a transition of power and sovereignty in Iraq. GW was supposed to be Bremer's ultimate boss. And Bremer decided that things would be done his way. In the process of doing things his way, he made quite a foreign policy mess out of Iraq and got a war started there that might not have occurred had he done what he was supposed to. There was a time element at the end of the invasion in which it was possible for a new society to be born in the rubble of the old Iraqi regime. But that time element was squandered because of the arrogance and even ignorance of each of the players.

Now to Michael Barone, who this morning in a republished to the Spokesman-Review editorial, also covered Mr. Feith's book. Even to comparing Iraq to World War ll. Well, Roosevelt made the sorts of decisions "behind the scenes" that also assured that we ultimately won that war. The very real enemy in Nazi Germany and in alliance with Mussolini and Japan's Emperor Hirohito, presented an undoubted grave danger to the rest of the world. If we, the western alliance of the U.S., Great Britain and etc. did not win, then we would all be speaking German today. On the other hand, all Barone would have to do is look at history. Saddam Hussein was certainly hostile to his neighbors: Iran and Kuwait. When Hussein was particularly hostile to Iran, we treated him as an ally; even to assisting him with acquiring WMD. There is no "liberal fallacy" regarding WMD in Iraq. Not when President Ronald Reagan invited Iraqi scientists into our top security labs to learn how to make the WMDs for themselves. A president later, George H.W. Bush, and it took the Iraqi gvt's invasion of Kuwait before Bush (1) would bestir himself to even recognize that Hussein posed a threat, at least in his own region. And our oil supplies? We couldn't hope to have acquired Hussein's hostility and intransigence if we hadn't gone to war with him over Kuwait. And after the war, expressing alarm over the WMD we assisted him in acquiring, then forced him to dispose of it. Historical fact. But during the Reagan/Bush era, the fact that Hussein had indeed used WMD on his own people, didn't matter. It mattered that we needed him as an ally principally against the old Soviet menace, no matter what he was as a brutal dictator to his own people.

On the History Channel, before our invasion of Iraq, it covered the bases on WMD, the belief that we had got most of Hussein's banned weapons, 90% certain that we had effectively disarmed him so that he could no longer pose a threat to his neighbors, inclusive of Israel. That's 90% certainty. Fact, on the 10% uncertainty however, as was demonstrated on the History Channel, GW and his administration built a case for war. There can be no "liberal fallacy" about WMD if what is publicly mouthed about Hussein's actual capabilities were more true a decade prior to 2002. When WMD was not found, because the weapons inspectors had destroyed most of the stockpiles. And what was found was no longer usable. Then the "liberal" opponents of the war found justification for turning on GW. So, while Barone was looking for all the right excuses to target the "liberals," he ignored pertinent history. I shouldn't doubt that Feith, in wanting to cover his own arse here, would try to spin things so that he at least would come out better than the rest of the crew in the GW administration. Let us not forget that as a matter of public record, Feith was instrumental in getting the Iraq war off the ground. And so, given what he implemented, I shouldn't doubt that he at least wants to position himself as the guy who never got it wrong. And questioning him fiercely would bring about the very denials that was fully on display on The Daily Show last night. I doubt I would want to read Feith's self-aggrandizement. There are far better books about Iraq that I can find used and cheap.

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